A U.S. Navy chaplain who prayedin Jesus’ nameas his conscience dictated is being ejected from the military servicein retaliationfor his victorious battle to change Navy policy that required religious rites benon-sectarian.
This fight cost me everything. My career is over, my family is now homeless, we’ve lost a million dollar pension, but Congress agreed with me and rescinded the Navy policy, so chaplains are free again to pray in Jesus’ name,Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt told WND.My sacrifice purchased their freedom. My conscience is clear, the fight was worth it, and I’d do it all again.
Klingenschmitt, as WND has reported, has fought an extended battle with the Navy over its restrictions on religious expression by its chaplains. He appeared and delivered a public prayerin Jesus’ nameat a White House rally last winter and was court-martialed for that. The Navy convicted him of failing to follow a lawful order because his superior didn’t want him prayingin Jesus’ name.
He’s also launched a legal battle that he said he hopes eventually will result in his reinstatement, alleging the Navy assembled acivic religionby ordering its chaplains to pray in a certain way.
There’s a Unitarian system of religion that’s aimed at Christians,John Whitehead, founder of the The Rutherford Institute, told WND.It boils down to that. We’re seeing it all across the country, with council prayers, kids wanting to mention Jesus. What’s going on here is it’s generally a move in our government and military to set up a civic religion.
I think the Supreme Court’s going to have to look at the idea of can the government in any of its forms tell people how to pray, set up a basic religion and say you can only do it this way,he said.
I’ve got nothing against conscientious objectors who refuse to obey government orders out of religious conviction. There are cases where zealotry leads to horrible evils (see, for example, Eric Robert Rudolph or Muhammad Atta), but there the problem has to do with the wicked content of the beliefs, not with the zealotry per se. Religious zealotry, in and of itself, signals a willingness to recognize commitments higher and deeper than obedience the will of an earthly sovereign; which is part of the reason why religious zealotry has often played such an important role in the development of radical freedom movements, from the Levellers to Baptist antinomialism to American abolitionism.
That said, the position that Klingenschmitt has found himself in is a bit different from that of, say, St. Valentine. Nobody is threatening to kill him for his beliefs, or for his refusal to indulge in
non-sectarian prayers that omit the name of Jesus. What happened is that he lost his job. Specifically, his job with the government military forces.
Klingenschmitt has every right to pray how he wants to pray, in public or in private, and if the government says otherwise then the government can go straight to hell. But this raises the question: if Klingschmitt doesn’t want the government telling him how to pray, then why does he want to go on being the hireling of a government agency? If you don’t want the government telling you how to pray, then what are you doing demanding to keep a place within the chain of command for the United States government’s official Sacerdotal Corps?
Real martyrs accept the consequences of professing their faith. Among those consequences is giving up on government patronage, because a government that sponsors religion necessarily has the power to tell people how to practice that religion.
Real zealots do not pretend that they can serve two masters.